"I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit...." John 15:5
 
            "I don't WANT to wear those pants, Mom,
                    they're too STRETCHY!"

Yet another funny yet frustrating morning with my Maren, who just turned 4.  She didn't want to get dressed!

I laughed (sort of) and just let her wear her pajama pants.  I guess pink and orange might become the next fashion statement.  We aren't going anywhere today anyway except to pick the kids up from school.

I started thinking about how the Lord tries to stretch me.  I want to be comfortable and happy.  I like the easy way.  Maybe I get crabby practicing Natural Family Planning and leaving the door open to more children if God wants them.  Money isn't falling from trees.  Maybe I worry about some of the trials my children go through.  I hate seeing them suffer.  Sometimes I get really tired of not eating dairy and wheat just to feel healthy.  Fake cheese is disgusting.

I sometimes avoid talking to others who are going through a hard time
because I don't know what to say or do to help.  Today I reached out to a friend going through terrible suffering.  I have no idea how to help.  I tried to listen, and I have been praying for years for her.  I am so glad the Lord "stretched" me because I had missed talking to my friend.  I pray I didn't say the wrong thing.

Today's gospel reading is from Mark.  Men at the synagogue were watching Jesus to see if he did something unlawful on the sabbath.  They were looking for a way to destroy Jesus.  Jesus challenged them, asking if it was lawful to "do good or do harm, to save or to kill" on the sabbath.  Jesus said to a man with a withered hand

        “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out,
         and his hand was restored.
  Mark 3:5

Lord, keep stretching me.  I don't believe I am called to be comfortable, I am called to keep stretching and growing closer to You.  I pray for those going through terrible suffering, a time of stretching that is almost unbearable.   I know that your stretching will heal.

P.S.  Lord, help me be "stretchy" to deal with my feisty Maren today!
 
 
Yesterday we celebrated our spunky little Maren's 4th birthday.  Her birth was extra special because it was our first home birth.  I have so many wonderful memories of her birth! 

I was 41
weeks pregnant and definitely ready to meet our baby.  We sent the kids to bed at 8:00 pm with no sign of the baby coming.  Much to my surprise, contractions started at around 9:00, and a warm shower didn't stop them.  Ready or not, this baby was coming!

Before I knew it, my midwife was at our house.  It was a blur of breathing and changing positions to cope with the pain. 
At around 2:30 a.m. the next morning, out came a 9 lb. 3 oz. baby with the chubbiest cheeks I had ever seen!

All the kids and Grandma Cynti rushed in when they heard the baby's first cry.  I was still sitting on the birthing stool!  We all peeked and saw it was a girl!  The kids got to touch the umbilical cord that still connected their sister to me.  We sent them back downstairs so I could deliver the placenta.

Soon Erica (10 1/2), Kelsey (8 1/2), Drake (almost 7), Blaise (5 1/2), Britta (3 1/2), and Grandma Cynti holding Joel (15 months) all gathered on our bed.  We admired our new baby girl and
named her together.  Eve?  Eva?  Ivy?  Gianna?  Maren?  Maren Eve it was!  

We made the kids go back to bed to catch a few hours of sleep before school started.  Kelsey was shocked to see the placenta inside our big popcorn bowl.  As she left, she dramatically announced that she was NEVER eating popcorn out of that bowl again!

            "Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean." He
        stretched out his hand, touched him, and said,
        "I will do it.  Be made clean."  Matthew 8:2-3


Picture

Jesus, in His mercy, can make everyone and anything clean again.  Even popcorn bowls!

 
 
Picture
This morning, Kelsey borrowed her friend's cell phone and called home, completely surprising me!  You see, last night, we went to 5:00 pm mass, prayed a decade of the rosary, and sent her off with our church's youth group to the Pro-life March in Washington, D.C.


This mommy's heart was proud and excited for her to make the long bus trip to D.C. with friends.  It was a bittersweet moment for me, the first of many "good-byes" to come.

I was touched that Kelsey took the time to call home.  She called to wish Maren a happy 4th birthday.  What she didn't say was as important as what she did say.  I could tell by the slight hesitation in her voice that she missed us, just a little.  The sweet, thoughtful, almost-13-year-old who tries to wear her jeans just a little too tight misses us.


Kelsey is marching to stand up for the voice of those that have no voice---the unborn, the disabled, the elderly.  Everyone that our culture deems disposable and not important, she wants the world to know they MATTER.  She doesn't march to judge or condemn, she marches to show compassion, healing, and hope.  
She marches with thousands of others to make a stand, radiating God's mercy and light to the world. 

This amazing young lady misses me.  All is right in my world!


 
 
1.  If you say you are bored, you get to sweep.  Or vacuum.  Or both.  Every time you complain about it, another chore is added on.

2.  If you punch your brother in the nuts while he is washing dishes and you are drying, you get to wash and dry ALL dishes for the next 24 hours.  By yourself.  Exchange "punch" and "washing dishes" for any similar violent act or chore.

3.  If you drop it, pick it up. 

4.  If someone needs help, help them. 

5.  If a group of kids is fighting, ALL are assumed guilty.  Not fair?  Too bad, life isn't fair.  If the fighting doesn't stop, assign chores.  They must be bored---refer to rule #1.

6.  If someone tattles, acknowledge their feelings (it feels bad when someone hits you/steals your toy/calls you names) and offer a hug.  Do not take sides.  Send the tattler on their merry little way to play again.  If tattling continues, assign everyone chores.  They must be bored---see rule #1 again.

7.  Mom cannot nag.  Don't want a coat?  Guess you'll wear it next time if you get cold.  Don't want to brush your hair?  Guess you will next time if you get embarrassed. 

8.  Every person in the family must laugh.  Life is fun!  If it takes Mommy and Daddy bustin' out the 80's dance moves in the kitchen, so be it.  The Roger Rabbit is ready for a comeback anyway.

9.  Affection is not optional.  If Mom kisses you and you wipe it off, expect to be tackled and kissed.  If you gag and throw up in your mouth when Daddy kisses Mommy, be prepared to witness our kisses a thousand times over.

10.  If the babies let Mom and Dad sleep in, leave us alone.  We don't care if you eat chips for breakfast or play Minecraft all morning.  We haven't slept well for 15 years, so for all that's good in the world, just let us sleep unless someone is bleeding---nosebleeds don't count.

11.  Lastly, but most importantly, Mommy or Daddy (preferably both) will always say bedtime prayers with you.  We will ask Mother Mary to pray for us, Jesus to give us happy dreams, and our guardian angels to keep us safe forever.

 
 
It's already 9:30 am, and my 5 big kids are finally back in school after 4 snow days tacked onto the end of Christmas break!  Glad to get back into some sort of routine!

Today's "to do" list is huge.  Dress all 4 little kids (a huge ordeal after 4 PJ days) and dress myself in time for school pickup.  A shower is optional, but brushing my teeth is not.  Bake 4 loaves of gluten-free bread, make gluten-free/dairy-free/soy-free/tomato-free/bean-free beef stew so I don't starve to death over the weekend, throw cloth diapers in the laundry, vacuum the upstairs bedrooms, and make some sort of attempt to change the sheets on our beds.   All while trying to keep Joel off the computer, play Play-Doh with Maren, nurse and put Brooks down for a nap, and keep Heath from destroying our house, or at the very least, alive.  Funny texts from my husband keep distracting me, and of course Facebook keeps sucking me in. 

        "Be still, and know that I am God...." Psalm 46:10

Having a hard time feeling that one today, sorry to say, but maybe writing it down will help!

In the middle of doing all of this, Heath, who is 20 months old, once again climbs on the kitchen table.  I prefer to think of him as perfecting his balancing skills instead of being naughty. 
Is this possible?

Maren shrieks as Heath stomps her Play-Doh creations, shaking the table and kicking Play-Doh all over the kitchen.  I am reminded of Heath's family nickname---Stay Puff.
Picture

Remember this guy? 
<--------------------
He's the Stay Puff marshmallow
guy from Ghostbusters!


Can you see the resemblance as Heath stomps and squishes everything in his path?
                The God of glory thunders...
                The
voice of the Lord is mighty,
                The voice of the Lord is majestic...
                The voice of the Lord shakes the desert
....

                        Psalm 29:3-4, 8

Perhaps "being still" to look for God is not possible for me today or even for the rest of the year.  For now, I must listen for the voice of God in the stomping and shaking of my thundering marshmallow man!

 
 
Picture



<
------------ RIGHT HERE  is the only clean and organized place in my house
!




It's been a fun but crazy Christmas break with my 5 big kids home from school. We have enjoyed playing new games from Santa, watching movies together, staying up too late, and traveling a gazillion miles to four different family Christmas celebrations.  It was a wonderful Christmas, but I am exhausted!

It's January 2nd, the kids are tired of being good, and the house is a mess.  Every nook and cranny of my house has crumbs or toys in it.  Baby Heath---no, he's not the baby anymore but the name stuck---sits atop the kitchen table, chucking everything in sight to the floor.  My living room is a giant pile of sofa cushions covered with blankets thanks to Maren, who loves building forts---why did Santa bring her new toys anyway?  Baskets of clean laundry have been taken upstairs but not put away.  The 4 loads of laundry I have done so far today are being (sort of) neatly stacked in piles on the laundry room floor since we are out of empty baskets.  Oh, and did I mention that the kids have asked me 546 times already for a cookie?  Well, except for Erica, who is recovering from the stomach flu.  One down, 10 to go on the puking.

Times like this, I take a deep breath and pause (well, more like stand and sway holding baby Brooks) in front of the big calendar hanging on my fridge.  It's kinda old school, but I like having our schedules right in front of me, color coded and neatly written, so I don't forget anything.  Do not touch this calendar without asking Mommy first.  Got it?

Today I had an overwhelming sense of calm wash over me as I focused on the newly filled out calendar.  It seemed so simple, but I could feel God telling me

  "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you." John 14:27

The peaceful moment didn't last long, but I carried it in my heart the rest of the day.  
May we all feel God's peace today, even if only for a few moments!


 

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    Jaime, household engineer to 9 kids, an amazing husband, 2 fish, and a rainbow shark!

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